Saturday, January 27, 2007

Home Automation and miscellaneous updates

In a previous blog entry (Everyone loves a mystery!), I lamented at the state of my home automation. Most of it didn't work and that which did, didn't follow any logic as to why it did or didn't work. Well I've a little further progress on this subject. Today I was trying out Mark Gilmore's ECS ( software with my Insteon USB PLC. After some time of fighting with the PLC (it's behavior didn't follow the Insteon documentation, grrr). Anyway I had some of my Insteon working and I had some of the X10 working (more than previous) but it managed to get worse as the day progressed right back to the previous odd behavior. What I have discovered is that the signal is partially getting out. The first half of the command seems strong enough at about 4V. But the second half is getting garbled or not being sent at all. While the X10 looks valid the command D1 D1 DO N DON gets sent as D1 D1 B5. As the day progressed the Insteon went from working to not working also. The Insteon PLC is now flickering, not blinking, like traffic is being sent. This pretty much keeps the PLC from sending anything. The T1103 mostly works but that seems to be it.

My next course of action is the start tearing everything out and add one thing at a time until the network fails. I have a feeling that the problem may be related to the cheap Geek Squad UPS units I have. They're behind filters but I still suspect them.

I've also sent quite a bit of time updating my web pages. Between school, work and family there's not much left over. They're a mess! There is no logical format of the directories and a lot of material is hidden deep in subdirectories. I've begun reorganizing the site in the hopes of a more logical flow and less wasted space (duplicate material). So you may find some of the links broken from time to time. I'll try to repair them as quickly as possible. Please report any broken links to the outside world. I haven't run my link check program in a long time and I'm sure there are more than a few bad links. I hope to get that program up and running in the next week or so.


I received an email from Robert Stephens (Founder and Chief Inspector, The Geek Squad), he wanted to know if he could help with any problems with the UPS (GS-685U) that I have. I guess I need to be a little more clear about the problem. Here's how I replied to Robert:

Stephens, Robert (GeekSquad) wrote:

> Neil,
> I saw your blog post.  The Geek Squad is very concerned about quality.
> Can you tell me more about your concerns of the UPS?  If there is any
> quality issue, I'll be sure to take care of it for you.

Pardon my choice of words. I didn't mean to infer that the GS UPS was the problem. I doubt you are familiar with X10. X10 is a power line carrier protocol. It uses the power line to talk to X10 modules. One of the problems is that any electrical device on the line can lower the impedance (resistance) and eat X10 signals. This is what is happening in my setup. I have filters on the power line to the UPS. The filter is supposed to raise the impedance to the point where X10 signals just pass by the UPS. At one point last week (when I wrote the blog entry) I had removed the UPS and filter from my power lines, tested the X10 and found it working. But a couple of hours later that turned out to be less likely. The problems returned and I again removed the UPS from the power line only to find that X10 problems remained. X10 tends to be fickle and right now is causing me no end of problems.

BTW, Robert has home automation and is familiar with X10. He also said that he is looking/pushing Best Buy into offereing home automation. Cool! A local place to purchase HA equipment! In the mean time, my GS-685U has saved my bacon 3 times so far in the last few months, thank you! I'm looking into getting a few more small units for my Tivo and a few other devices. I also have to lodge a complaint with my power utility to see if there is a problem with the area's power or whether the problem is local to my home. This has nothing to do with my X10 problems just the quality of my power. A few year ago the utility did have to come out and tighten the drop. Maybe there is a further problem with the drop and it needs to be replaced.

As you can see my X10 problems still persist (grrr)! Maybe this weekend I'll get to tearing apart the X10 network and see if I can resolve this issue once and for all!

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